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CHR on bill protecting human-rights defenders: Wave of fresh hope

MANILA, Philippines—The passage on Congress’ third and final reading of the bill that would define and protect the rights of human-rights defenders (HRDs) provides a “wave of fresh hope” for the human rights community which has been faced with hostile socio-political climate.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said this Wednesday after 183 House members voted to approve House Bill No. 9199 or the Human Rights Defenders (HRD) Protection Bill on Monday. No one opposed or abstained.

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READ: House OKs bill protecting human rights defenders

“This move from the lower house provides a wave of fresh hope for the human rights community that continue to steadfastly pursue the human rights cause amidst these challenging times,” CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline Ann De Guia said in a statement, noting that the human rights community faces “demonization, stigmatization, and various threats and harassment — some even culminated to killings.”

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De Guia also claimed that the measure’s approval reflects the commitment of our legislators to human rights as they accord legal protection to those championing for it.

“We look forward to the same expression of support from the Senate,” she added.

The bill, however, will not become a law anytime soon as the 17th Congress adjourned on Tuesday.

The Senate version of the bill, which was filed by Senator Leila De Lima, has been pending at the committee level since February 2018.

HB 9199 guarantees HRD rights and freedoms including rights against vilification; mandates the State and public authorities to respect, protect, and fulfill these rights and freedoms; and imposes appropriate sanctions to counter impunity, among others.

The measure also seeks to create a Human Rights Defenders Protection Committee which will be chaired by a CHR Commissioner and six members who will be jointly nominated by concerned civil society organizations.

De Guia also underscored the importance of a measure that will provide concrete protection and ensure a system that will enable prosecution of those that will do harm or commit violations against HRDs.

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She then expressed hope that the bill will progress expediently, given the urgency of the matter.

“Prioritizing the welfare and rights of the human rights defenders extends to the protection of the most vulnerable sectors, which they serve,” De Guia said. (Editor: Jonathan P. Vicente)

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